Do you have a formal art education or are you a self taught artist: I have a BFA from Syracuse University, and I’m planning to go for my MFA somewhere in New York once I run out of ideas.
What is the style of your pieces: I work serially, and practically all of my work involves some manner of repetition or seriality. I’m currently working on a series of 74 portraits of Minori Aoi, a Japanese glamor model – one portrait from each image in her debut photo book. I’ve also done paintings of beetles fighting each other, drawings of the Kerotan frogs from the videogame “Metal Gear Solid 3,” and paintings based on medical imagery.
What is the medium in which you work: I paint in oil, and I use acrylic house paint for the backgrounds. I also use gouache and drawing media, and I’ve done video work as well.
What started you on your path as an artist: There wasn’t any one defining moment for me. It’s something that happened gradually – my various interests led me to the painting program at Syracuse, and I ended up surprising myself by being successful there.
What is one of the most important things that art has brought to your life: A sense of freedom. I wouldn’t be able to live the life I live if I had a “normal” job or anything like that. I may not have much money, but I’d rather be happy than be rich and living a lie.
What is your favorite genre of art besides the one you work in: My father was a ceramicist, so I’ve always had a fondness for ceramic sculpture. I think that some of the best sculptures ever made were the Japanese haniwa, from around 500 AD. They were funerary statues that were made quickly and en masse, and their facial features were reduced to simple holes… but I think it’s incredible how much emotion they were able to show with three round holes.
Do you have art showings, and if so what are they typically like: Openings are great – I usually drink just enough to get talkative but not enough to get sloppy or silly. A little booze also makes it a bit less painful to explain my work dozens of times.
Do you have a certain set of clothes you make art in: Not really. I just wear clothes that are too ratty and old to be worn in public. If a pair of jeans gets its cuffs trampled, or if a shirt gets a big stain on it, I give it a second life as a studio outfit.
What has been the most frustrating part of being an artist? Getting noticed, definitely. The internet is a great way to get your name out there, but you’re jockeying for position with hundreds of thousands of other artists from around the world for a very limited number of slots in shows and galleries.
What is your favorite sandwich of all time: When I was in school in Syracuse, there was a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop two blocks from my apartment. They had the most amazing Italian subs there, and sadly I haven’t seen a Jimmy John’s since I moved away two years ago.
Has this year brought about any changes in your work, and if so what are they: I moved my studio from Westchester to Brooklyn last September, and I lost a lot of space, but I think I work better in tight quarters. So far this year I’ve been able to concentrate on completing particular projects rather than jumping from painting to painting like I used to do. I completed the Kerotan series of sixty-four drawings in February, and I’m nearly done with the first fifteen of the seventy-four portraits of Minori. I think that having my studio just off my bedroom helps – I have to go through my studio and look at my work if I want to go anywhere, so I’m constantly engaged, even when I don’t want to be.
Who is your favorite artist alive or dead: I like Francis Bacon and Balthus equally. They had vastly different outlooks on life, but they both walked the line between beauty and horror, which is something I’ve been exploring in my own work. As far as living artists go, I’ve been really impressed with some contemporary Romanian painters – Adrian Ghenie, Sergiu Toma, and Szabolcs Veres are all doing incredible things over in Transylvania, and I always feel jealous whenever I look at their work.
What is the most moving piece of artwork that you have seen in person: Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been “moved” by visual artwork. The only art that I get emotional over is music – listening to Borodin’s “Polovtsian Dances” or any of Bach’s great works makes me shiver, and Pachelbel’s Canon reminds me of my father and can really ruin my day if I hear it. Interestingly, I know next to nothing about music theory or anything like that… maybe I’m too “close” to the visual arts to get any reaction from it.
Do you have any animals, and what do they think of your work: I took care of my sister’s cats while she and her fiancée moved to California, but I ended up sending them back to her after a month or so. I miss the little guys, and I’d love to get a cat of my own, but I hate scooping litter and being walked on while I’m trying to sleep. I was afraid that they’d use my paintings to sharpen their claws, but they just ignored them. I don’t think they acknowledged that my paintings even existed.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions you would like to share with us: I don’t have anything set in stone yet, but I have several possibilities floating around.